by Anthony Kershaw
[The Planar 25 is now the P5. More information can be found about the updated version at the Rega website. Web address below - Ed]
It would seem the Renaissance for analogue equipment continues. The CD companies’ arrogant stance over the dusty remains of turntables and cartridges now, more than ever, seems premature. The Rega Planar 25 stands firmly among the many new ‘tables, enhancing the very best qualities that discerning audiophiles expect. The turntable was presented as an anniversary celebration of Rega’s analogue achievements of the past 25 years and fills a void between the venerable Planar 3 and Rega’s statement Planar 9. Using excellence in research and design from both ends of Rega’s spectrum, the 25 would seem to be the perfect platform upon which the rank and file enthusiast would build a fine analogue front end.
The Planar 25 looks similar to the much more expensive Planar 9, but without the 9’s outboard power supply and unique (and very expensive) platter. The 25 uses a plinth much like the Planar 3, incorporating a chipboard base covered by a laminate, this surrounded by a lovely wooden frame. The frame is available in different finishes and is attached to the plinth at three points. Underneath, Rega continues the ’squishy feet’ mentality that has been its standard support mechanism; up top, the 25 uses Rega’s standard glass platter. The motor is an electronic synchronous type, which, according to Rega, ‘…reduces the vibration close to zero and allows the motor to be coupled directly to the plinth through a special gasket. A power supply was developed to finely tune the voltage of the motor so that they match’. Once the rocker switch is pressed, motor and belt get the platter up to speed very quickly — the pitch stabilty of the Planar 25 was exceptionally true throughout the long review period.
One of the great combinations in audio must be the Rega turntables and their associated arms. They are benchmarks of the elusive ’synergy’ for which devoted audiophiles strive. This lineage is promoted once again by Rega’s owner Roy Gandy with the introduction of the RB600 arm. Finished in anodized silver, the arm mates effortlessly with the Planar 25 and elevates the already exceptional performance of its cheaper siblings. The RB600 incorporates the technical specifications of the RB300 (precision-balanced bearings, resonance controlled tapered arm tube, fixed headshell and damped cuing) adding low capacitance Klotz phono cable (used in the more expensive RB900) and terminated with Neutrik RCAs. Cartridge setup was as simple as other Rega arms, but like the others, the RB600 does not allow for azimuth adjustment or a change in vertical tracking angle. Yet, with the typical three point attachment for cartridges, setup is as easy as 1 2 3. As such, the arm accepted cartridges with ease and grace.
How to explain the ‘essence’ of the Planar 25’s sound and of its arm without the benefit of multiple platforms and wands might seem challenging. But the 25’s sound is so dynamic and powerful, while retaining the refinement of more expensive tables, that the task seemed less and less of an exercise as my very enjoyable listening progressed. Comprehensive notes describe the detail retrieved from many fine recordings. The scribblings also reveal a penchant for the table to present a forward seat in halls and lay the dynamics right at your fingertips. The soundstage on the finest recordings was wide if not especially deep. This is fairly typical of Rega’s analogue sound style, but with that added layer(s) of information, the presentation was just that much more interesting and exciting when compared to that of the Planar 3. For the modest extra outlay, the Planar 25 will give its owner more dynamic range (already wonderful in the Planar 3) and instrumental timbre that is extraordinarily lifelike. In absolute terms, it does not relay presence and the super refinement of acoustic instruments as does the more expensive VPI Aries or TNT series tables with JMW arms, but the Planar 25 will fill your room with superb sound for thousands less.
All areas of the aural spectrum seemed to be well balanced and no one octave overstayed its welcome — this made for an excellent blend. Compared to the finest in analogue, there was the slightest hint of girth in the very musical midrange. The liquid and ever clear midrange presentation found in the world of Clearaudio, Simon Yorke and others was imitated to a higher degree when a Ringmat replaced the felt mat covering the Planar 25’s glass platter. I find the Ringmat an unsightly horror, but the sound improvement made for strange bedfellows. And the secure and accurate bass became deeper and more detailed when adding a Seismic Sink under its feet. As the 25 is unsuspended, a Seismic Sink (or similar suspension device) is an essential tweak to hear the Planar 25 at its considerable best. For good measure, I placed all of the above on a Target wall shelf.
The fairly quiet background was helped by a low noise floor, due in no small part to the happy marriage of arm and cartridge(s). This quiet led to much detail front and center yet was well balanced within each musical setting. The Classic Records LSC-2183 The Reiner Sound with Fritz Reiner conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra exemplified these qualities. The original and reissue LSC-2183 are famous for powerful dynamics and contrasts of light and dark, yet the filigree moments (with delicacy not always associated with this conductor) were highlighted superbly. The gentle harmonics of the opening movement of Rhapsodie Espagnole showed even the near-perfect Chicago orchestra was fallible when asked to execute at the zenith of orchestral ensemble. To be fair, this section is well nigh impossible to play in tune. Full marks to both orchestra and Rega for allowing the listener a terrific experience. The power heard later on this magnificent reissue is awesome in relaying the thrust of the sound into a superb hall.
I used two cartridges for the review period. The Rega Super Elys cartridge seems to be a distinct improvement over the cheaper Elys; the upper treble of the Super Elys is much superior, offering a smoother presentation. The Benz Glider (low output) overshadowed the slightly cheaper Super Elys in both dynamics and refinement. It seems the RB600 will mate with all but the most esoteric of cartridges. The phono stage (using a Mullard tube) of the Audio Research SP-9 Mk. III was an able partner to the cartridges’ unique styles and equal to the demands placed upon it.
The Benz Glider demonstrated excellence in real life timbre both on voice and acoustic instruments. I always get a kick out of listening to Philadelphia Jerry Ricks’ Blues LP (Roksan RLP016), a record the Roksan company put out quite a few years ago. Given to me by a local distributor, the record is a knockout both musically and on a technical level. Jerry’s voice was given its fair due through the Planar 25 and the ‘table continued to give fair representation on many others of its type. Classical piano and classical soprano, where the demands on every link of the analogue and amplification chain are fierce, were handled with aplomb. Sopranos Jessye Norman, Kiri te Kanawa and others floated their highest notes with power and beauty — the Planar 25 simply went about its business displaying the essence of the individual artists’ sounds. Just wonderful.
Once again, Rega has produced a top quality audio product and is selling it at a low price. The turntable is worth the price alone, but adding the superb RB600 is a gift from audio heaven. The quality in build and sound is well beyond what a discerning audiophile would associate with US$1275.00. As such, the Planar 25 is a perfect turntable for those interested in entering the LP world. If you are into tweaking mode, then a look at the VPI ‘tables might be in order. The VPI HW19 Mk. III and IV are commensurate with the 25 in sound if not cost. But if you want to bust a ‘table out of the box, set it up quickly with no fuss or muss, then the Rega Planar 25 is for you. A super achievement.
Manufactured by Rega Research Limited
119 Park Street Westcliff - on - Sea, Essex, England SS0 7PD
Source of review sample: Canadian Distributor
Digital: Cary CD-303 CD player, Metronome Technologie CD-1V ‘Signature’ Tube CD player
Preamplifier: Audio Research SP9 Mk. III
Power Amplifiers: Rowland Concentra integrated amplifier, Audio Research D300 power amplifier, Audio Research VT100 Mk. II, Elnika Edgar TP 101 tube integrated amplifier
Loudspeakers: Anthony Gallo Acoustics’ Nucleus Solo
Cables: Interconnects: Audioquest Emerald, Kimber PBJ, Wireworld Polaris III, Synergistic Research Loudspeaker: van den Hul M.C. The Sky-Line Hybrid
Accessories: Black Diamond Racing Cones (Nos. 3 and 4), Target wall shelf and stand, Ringmat, Seismic sink, BBC boards.